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There is a flame of a bloody appearance (and nothing is more dreaded by mortals) which falls down upon the earth1, such as was seen in the third year of the 103rd olympiad, when King Philip was disturbing Greece. But my opinion is, that these, like everything else, occur at stated, natural periods, and are not produced, as some persons imagine, from a variety of causes, such as their fine genius may suggest. They have indeed been the precursors of great evils, but I conceive that the evils occurred, not because the prodigies took place, but that these took place because the evils were appointed to occur at that period2. Their cause is obscure in consequence of their rarity, and therefore we are not as well acquainted with them as we are with the rising of the stars, which I have mentioned, and with eclipses and many other things.

1 The meteor here referred to is probably a peculiar form of the aurora borealis, which occasionally assumes a red colour. See the remarks of Fouché, in Ajasson, i. 382.

2 The doctrine of the author appears to be, that the prodigies are not the cause, but only the indication of the events which succeed them. This doctrine is referred to by Seneca; "Videbimus an certus omnium rerum ordo ducatur, et alia aliis ita complexa sint, ut quod antecedit, aut causa sit sequentium aut signum." Nat. Quæst. i. 1.

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